How To Choose What To Eat Before Exercise

Eating before exercise is something only the athlete can determine based on experience, but, as a general guideline:

  • Eat a solid meal 4 hours before exercise.
  • Eat a snack or a high-carb energy drink 1 to 2 hours before exercise.
  • Consume a replacement drink 1 hour after exercise, preferably one with a 3:1 carbs to protein ratio.
  • Bagels
  • Baked potato
  • Cereal with milk
  • Energy bar
  • Fresh fruit
  • Pasta with tomato sauce
  • Toast with peanut butter, lean meat, or cheese
  • Water
  • Yogurt

Foods with a lot of fat or fiber can be difficult to digest and tend to remain in the stomach for a long time. What this means is the blood meant to deliver oxygen to the muscles will instead get diverted to the stomach.4 If this happens during exercise, you are likely to experience cramping, stomachache, and nausea. As a rule, avoid foods like doughnuts, fries, potato chips, candy bars, or red meat.

While beans, dried fruit, coleslaw, and dairy may fit the bill nutrition-wise, you may want to skip them and other potentially gassy foods prior to exercise if you are prone to bloating.